Ask Hank #8: Accidental Connoisseurs of Foul Pipe Juice

A. Miller
Summer is finally here in full force and I’ve had the joy of seasonal allergies to combat
while trying to slip in a few puffs from my pipe. I read somewhere that nasal snuff was a good solution, but I was either using it wrong, or someone was wrong on the internet.

Since the latter seems almost impossible, I’m assuming I was just doing it wrong.

I have an order of estate cobs on the way from E-bay and a very large order of tobacco I definitely don’t need from so I would say everything is going quite well.

This month we had a flurry of fascinating questions that I’m excited to dive in to. Stand up, get tense, and I hope you, like me, are impressed with my humble ability to give advice even when I have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.

Hey Hank!

Tobacco is usually dry (when I feel it in a tin), as opposed to dripping wet. my question is, where does that sour, grossly-ill tasting juice come from when I’m smoking my pipe? I hold onto the pipe rather firmly in my teeth so I don’t drop it, keeping my lips closed while I do my ‘honey-do’ list on Saturdays. And, it seems that at the end of a long day, I’ve got this horrible taste coming from the stem. Please advise.

Funky Mouth

Dear Funky Mouth,

Moisture in the form of evil-incarnate can creep in to your pipe if you’re not careful. If you don’t change something you’ll get so familiar with it you will become something of an accidental connoisseur of the stuff, able to tell the foulness of a Latakia from that of a Va/Per or 1Q.

I spent a significant amount of time in my earlier years seeking out the cause of my familiarity with the nuances between these hell-juices and I feel I can accurately tell you what the culprit is:

Honey-do lists.

Seriously. Ask your wife to kindly remove the lists from your life and you’ll notice a calm come over you that extends to your pipe in the form of smooth and sweet dry smoking.

Come on honey, don’t,

Dear Hank,

I would like to start make pipe tampers, what do I use as a finish? Can I stain wood? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Larry Vander Yacht

Hi Larry,

Make pipe tampers. Make lots of them. Send some to me. As for a finish? I’d say do a small dip, a bounce, perhaps a twirl, and then almost certainly a bow. People won’t notice the flaws in the tamper if you nail the finish.

Do whatever you’d like with wood—it’s a free country for at least a few more months. Cut it, bang it together—do as you please. I’m fine if you stain wood. But painting is usually easier.

I’d be happy to help too. Let me know your address. I’ll buy tickets if you provide the Penzance (seems like a fair trade).

Fairly certain I answered this one correctly,


I have a Lane Charatan with a removable cap on the shaft about a quarter inch in front of the bowl. but I can’t find it listed anywhere. It was given to me in the early 70s. I don’t see any numbers on it. What is it?

David M.

Dear David M.

As the writer of an always-serious-well-educated advice column on pipes and tobacco I am clearly the right person to be asking this question to.

Now let’s see, you mentioned the pipe has a shaft, and a bowl–so I think your assumption that what you have is a “pipe” is probably is accurate from that standpoint (usually I’d ask for a bit as well, but we can let that slide for now). And a removable cap is an interesting feature, I haven’t seen those anywhere but on cartoon-dancing frogs and sleeping Englishmen in some time.

And no numbers huh? Interesting. Everyone knows pipes go together with numbers like Lane Limited and Cherry topping.

If I were a betting man (and I’m not, because let’s be honest, I could let $35 ride on red, or I could take it and buy three tins of tobacco), but if I *were*, I’d say you have yourself a Medico. Probably made of brylon and not briar. If the grain is nearly flawless this is even more likely. Sorry you got such a junky pipe.

I have a few Medico pipes made of briar I’d be happy to swap you if you’re looking to get rid of it. I could even carve in the words Charatan (like someone clearly did on yours) if you’d like.

As always, lending a helping—selfless hand,

Dear Hank,

I have been a pipe smoker for more than 40 years and I still get tongue bite and my tongue burns like fire. I have been smoking a Carey pipe for all that time as well. I have tried many different tobacco brands. Half and Half is my favorite but it bites and burns. What can you suggest?

A. Walker

Dear A. Walker,

40 years and still feeling the fire of of wrath? Have you considered the possibility that God simply doesn’t want you to enjoy a pipe? Perhaps you were born fit for chewing tobacco and you simply missed your destiny? Always a possibility I suppose.

If you are, however, determined to keep smoking your pipe (and I don’t think any of us here at would blame you) we can go back to the briar board and find out what’s really happening.

As I understand it, there are a couple of different schools of thought around tongue bite.

1) The school of arrogance says, “You’re simply smoking too fast, slow down and puff at a much lower cadence and you’ll notice everything gets better.”

2) The school of baccy says, “It’s a chemistry thing and you just need to change what you’re smoking.” In this thinking, blends from another manufacturer might just not bother you. I, for one, am a huge fan of Hearth and Home’s Classic Burley Kake. If you’re looking for that old-time burley feel of old-fashioned Half and Half, it wont be the same, but might capture the essence. Perhaps you’ve just been looking in the wrong tin.

3) The school of wise old pipe smokers says, “You’re not drinking enough whiskey.”

While I think number 2 is probably the most accurate, I always prefer to first extensively test that the problem isn’t related to number 3. Then I work my way backwards on the list.

Double (maybe triple) checking just to making sure I don’t have tongue bite tonight,

That will do for now. Don’t forget to get your jackets at the door and fill out the form below so I can have the opportunity to bestow more wisdom soon.

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